Never Been Kissed

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Drew Barrymore is completely adorable in this completely adorable story about Josie, a former high school ugly duckling, now a copy editor for the Chicago Sun Times. She wants to prove herself as a reporter and her first assignment is to go undercover as a high school student to report on what is going on in the lives of teenagers.

She finds that more than proving herself as a reporter, she wants to use her adult competence to triumph over her hideously humiliating memories of being unpopular (her nickname was “Josie Grossie”) and find a way to fit in. But it turns out that the skills it takes to succeed as an adult have nothing to do with the skills it takes to succeed in high school. When she does find a place with “The Denominators,” the school’s brainy (nerdy) crowd, she is happy. But pressed by her editor to fit in with the cool kids, she relives her old experience of frustration and embarassment.

Meanwhile, her brother Rob (David Arquette in his most appealing performance), has found that the skills that made him very successful in high school have been of no use since. Wanting to help Josie — and to return to the place where he was happiest — he, too enrolls in the high school, and is not only immediately dubbed “cool” by the entire student body, he is able to make Josie cool, too.

Josie is at last noticed by the most popular boy in school, and is thrilled when he invites her to the prom. And she begins to fall in love with her handsome English teacher. Her entire office is mesmerized by her daily adventures, which they watch through a hidden camera.

All of the predictable complications ensue, and all are resolved in a finale that is more romantic than persuasive, but fun.

This is the best of the recent spate of teen-centered comedies, with a genuinely sweet and romantic story and some perceptive comments about life in high school. It also has a heroine who believes in waiting for the right person to kiss, even if that wait takes quite a while.

Parents should know that there are some sexual references (Josie’s friend at the office brags about her sex life, but envies Josie’s views on love) and that in one scene Josie unknowingly eats some hash brownies and as a result behaves very foolishly. A “sex talk” is played for humor, and involved putting condoms on bananas. A young girl offers to have sex with Rob. He is clearly tempted, but knows that it would be wrong, and he turns her down. In general, however, this movie’s values are of self-respect and of making decisions about sexual involvement based on love and maturity.

Families who see this movie should talk about why high school is such a clique-ish stage of life, and what kids think will be different in college and afterward. Why did Josie want so badly to meet the limited standards of high school popularity? Why did her friends at work envy her? Why didn’t she tell the truth earlier?

Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy Barrymore’s “Ever After.”

Related Tags:

 

Comedy High School Romance

Rushmore

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

This story about the misery that comes from the grandiosity and humiliation during adolescence is probably of more interest to adults than to the teens who are already only too aware of those experiences. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is a 10th grader on scholarship at the tony private school Rushmore Academy. His passionate devotion to the school is demonstrated by his frenetic participation in every possible extra-curricular activity, including the staging of his elaborate (if derivative) plays. His grades, however, are close to disastrous, and the headmaster tells him that if they do not improve, he will be expelled.

Max develops a crush on one of the teachers at the school, a beautiful young widow. And he forms a close alliance with Blume, a wealthy alumnus of the school (Bill Murray), a man who is drawn to Max’s passions, and even acts as a go-between for Max’s absurd attempt at courtship, until he himself becomes attracted to the teacher.

All three main characters are feeling a sense of loss. Blume and the teacher seem stuck. Max, with his collision of adult and childish emotions, comes up with one hopeless scheme after another to attract attention and respect, ignoring the genuine opportunities for real friendship that are presented to him. He lies about receiving sexual favors from another student’s mother. He tells people his father is a brain surgeon instead of a barber. He decides that what will solve his problems is getting Blume to spend $8 million on an acquarium for the school, located on the school’s playing field. He gets drunk and insults the teacher’s date. He even risks killing Blume. Yet somehow, he manages to keep working toward his dreams, and even to make a few of them come true.

This is not a movie in which people learn great lessons and are drawn closer together. This is a movie in which a lot of hurt people grope toward something that even they cannot quite visualize. Its appeal is in its quirky characters and in its moments of humor and perception.

Parental concerns include very strong language and sexual references as well as extremely reckless and destructive behavior.

Related Tags:

 

Comedy High School

She’s All That

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Get ready. The success of movies like “Scream” has led to an upcoming avalanche of movies transplanting every possible movie plot into high school. This one takes “Pygmalion” with a few touches from “Pretty in Pink,” “Easter Parade,” “Cinderella,” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.” It falls smack dab in the middle of a genre I call “the makeover movie,” in which Our Heroine achieves success through good grooming and accessorizing. The result here is uneven, with some good performances and even some witty commentary on teen culture, but beware — the raunchy references make this inappropriate for younger teens, and even parents of mature high schoolers might want to consider it carefully.

Zach, the most popular and talented boy in high school (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) gets dumped by his beautiful but mean girlfriend the day after spring vacation of their senior year. She has met an MTV-celebrity (Matthew Lillard, hilarious as a self-obsessed gross-out champion based on MTV’s legendary Puck). Zach and his best friend bet that he can take any girl in school and get her elected prom queen before the end of school. The choice is drab Laney Boggs (Rachael Leigh Cook), who is coping with her mother’s death by taking care of her father and brother and by worrying about problems throughout the world instead of working through her own feelings of loss.

Laney is one of the least persuasive ugly ducklings in the history of movies. She shucks her glasses and her overalls, and my goodness! She’s beautiful! And my goodness! Zach finds himself actually caring for her. The plot is almost numbingly predictable, but one of the movie’s strengths it that it makes clear that Zach and Laney have both limited themselves by defining themselves before they have really had a chance to find out who they are.

The movie’s other strengths are Prinze, who has a wonderful screen presence and the magnificent Anna Paquin as his younger sister. Cook’s performance is flat by comparison. Jodi Lyn O’Keefe is a caricature as Zach’s former girlfriend.

Parental concerns include strong language, teen drinking, and casual sex (though not by the main characters). Zach’s friend brags that he is going to get Laney to have sex with him in a hotel room he has arranged for the occasion. For some reason, when Laney’s friend overhears this, instead of making the stunningly obvious move of telling Laney what the guy has in mind, he races around trying to get the message to someone else. Parents should know that the movie includes an ugly and graphic scene in which a school bully torments Laney’s hearing-impaired brother by reaching into his pants to grab some pubic hair and putting it on his pizza. Zach then forces the bully and his friend to eat it. Yuck.

Related Tags:

 

Comedy Family Issues High School Romance

Superstar

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:16 am

Even fans of the Mary Katherine Gallagher skits on Saturday Night Live will find this movie overlong at 82 minutes. It is one thing for a 30-something woman to play the part of a high school girl in a skit, but another to watch her try to act the part of a high school girl in a movie, even one as plotless as this one.

Mary Katherine (Molly Shannon) has one dream — she wants to be passionately kissed. While she waits, she practices on whatever is available, including a tree and a stop sign. Ultimately, she becomes a little more specific in her dream. She wants to be kissed by high school dream date Sky (Will Farrell, also from Saturday Night Live). And she decides that since he is going steady with pretty cheerleader Evian (Elaine Hendrix, repeating her meanie role from “The Parent Trap”) the only way to get his attention is to become a superstar. And she thinks she can do that by winning the Catholic Teen Magazine VD Awareness Talent Contest. Other attempts at humor include a boy with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a television falling on a dog, an Irish step-dancing tragedy, and repeated falling down and showing of the world’s whitest cotton underpants.

Younger teens will get a kick out of the naughty words and slapstick humor and may even relate to Mary Katherine’s struggle to become someone who is admired while staying true to herself. Any older folks who wander in by mistake may enjoy some references to old movies, especially Made-for-TV classics like “The Boy in the Plastic Bubble.” And families might take this opportunity to talk about the careless cruelty and need to conform of many high school students, and Mary Katherine’s growing understanding that “you have to be your own rainbow” and that what matters is what she thinks about herself, not what Sky thinks about her. But parents should know that there are a number of raunchy references and a portrayal of Mary Katherine’s vision of Jesus that may be offensive to some viewers.

Related Tags:

 

Comedy High School
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2019, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik